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BJP Loses Face In Arunachal:GOVERNOR NOT A DOORMAT!, By Poonam I Kaushish, 19 July, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary  

New Delhi, 19 July, 2016

BJP Loses Face In Arunachal


By Poonam I Kaushish


It’s a killer world and everything topsy turvy! First a former American Afghan war veteran goes on a killing spree in Dallas to avenge the death of his black brethren, then security forces shoot down Hizbul Mujahedeen’s poster boy Burhan Wani leading to angry public protests, in Nice, France the ISIS struck terror via a truck mowing down 84 and injuring hundreds on Bastille Day.


Phew, democracy won as Turkey successfully nailed a military coup and last but not least, the Modi Sarkar rewrote a Governor’s Constitutional norms and turned democracy on its head, but lost out when the Supreme Court restored the gubernatorial halo! So far so good.


The sordid tale is set in Arunachal Pradesh where the BJP through its Governor Rajkhova preponed the Assembly session to mid-December to test Nabam Tuki’s Government majority as 21 of Congress’s 47 MLAs had rebelled and joined hands with 11 BJP legislators in the 60-member House. Tuki closed the Assembly gates so rebel Congress-BJP MLAs held an extraordinary session in a community hall and removed the Speaker who had disqualified 14 of the 21 legislators.


The Governor cited collapse of law and order and imposed President’s rule. In February Congress rebel Kalikho Pul was anointed Chief Minister after winning a trust vote in the Assembly. The Congress and Tuki moved the Supreme Court which reinstated Tuki’s Government leaving the Governor and BJP red faced.


In another dramatic turnaround the Congress replaced Tuki before the trust vote in the Assembly with Pema Khandu and rebel-turned-Chief Minister Pul returned to the Party fold with 30 dissident MLAs.


All’s well that ends well. Yet the happenings in Arunachal have once again brutally exposed two highly reprehensible facets of our rulers’ democratic temper. At the political level, governance is shamelessly all about cutting deals, side deals and underhand deals. At the Constitutional level, the BJP finds itself in hot waters with the Supreme Court, twice over. Remember Uttarakhand.


Undeniably the main takeaway of the Supreme Court judgment was underscoring the Governor’s role and powers. Importantly, the five judges Constitutional Bench downsized the gubernatorial discretionary powers under Article 174.


It stated: “He must not embroil himself in any political thicket... He must keep clear of any horse-trading, unsavoury political manipulations, irrespective of the degree of their ethical repulsiveness. He must remain aloof from discord, disharmony, discontent or dissention within individuals and Parties.


“Who should or shouldn't be leader of a Party is a political question to be... resolved by the Party itself. The Governor cannot make such issues a matter of his Constitutional concern. He cannot have overriding authority over representatives of the people.”


Further, the Apex court rejected Rajkhova’s justification for advancing the Assembly session to take up a motion for the Speaker's removal. “The participatory role of the Governor concerning the removal of a Speaker, can neither be understood nor accepted, and is unwarranted.


Holding that the Governor wasn’t a guide or mentor to a Speaker, it averred, that he cannot ask a Speaker to discharge his functions as he considers Constitutionally appropriate as both have independent Constitutional responsibilities.


Call it déjà vu or Et tu NDA, either which way Modi NDA’s is no different from National Front VP Singh’s 1989, Vajpayee’s 1999 nor UPA’s 2004 who got Governors appointed by their predecessors to resign. Since 2014 nine Governors have resigned, Kerala’s Sheila Dikshit, Maharashtra’s Sankarnarayana, W Bengal’s Narayanan, UP’s Joshi, Pudicherry’s Kataria, Goa’s Wanchoo, Nagaland’s Ashwani Kumar, Chhattisgarh’s Shekhar Dutt, Mizoram’s Purushothaman and Uttarakhand’s Paul.


Each Governor interpreting read misinterpreting the rule book any which way he wanted, drawing his own conclusions based more often than not on delusions as long as he and his benefactors at the Centre could rule the roost.


Notably, the Supreme Court order has once again opened the Constitutional Pandora’s box on the Governor’s role, his qualifications and Constitutional obligations and duties. Raising a moot point: Is he the Centre’s chaprasis? Or, the keeper of people’s faith as the Constitutional head of a State. Will ideologies be the touchstones for matters of a Constitutional nature?


Alas, over the years the prism of time has distorted the Governor’s role wherein today he has turned into the Centre’s kathputli who acts as a pawn of his political mai baaps in Delhi. Thereby, overlooking the letter and spirit of the Constitution.


Sadly, in a milieu of you-scratch-my-back-and-I-yours, the Governor has become a convenient tool of the Centre. Especially in Opposition-ruled States where he runs the administration by proxy. Playing the I-spy game, petty politricking, gross interference and open partisanship all at the Centre’s behest. Sending for files, summoning Ministers and bureaucrats.


Bluntly, make life hell for the Chief Minister at every step and use it as a springboard to return to active politics. What else can one expect as over 60 per cent of the present lot of Governors are active politicians and the rest ‘pliable’ bureaucrats, police officers and Army Generals. His qualifications? Is he a ‘yes’ man?


Unfortunately, post judgment even as our polity laments the decline of the crucial institution of Governor, yet given a little leeway will continue to misuse and abuse the office for personal and Party ends. Not fir them that it generates bad blood between Lilliputian politicians but in its wake denigrates the Constitution and undermines India’s unity and integrity.


What next? With the Supreme Court lying down the parameters will our netas heed? Top experts affirm that the Governor’s basic role is not just to represent the Centre but, as the Head of the State, serve his people and fight their battles with the Centre, not vice versa.


His role is overwhelmingly that of a “friend, philosopher and guide” to his Council of Ministers with unrivalled discretion. He has to bear in mid the overall national interest, not partisan Party benefits. The Constitution empowers him to influence the decisions of an elected Government by giving him the right “to be consulted, to warn and encourage”


Clearly, Arunachal is a lesson on the dangers of appointing political hatchet men to high offices. As long as the Centre continues to play petty, partisan politics, India will be greatly hurt. The Governor must not be reduced to the level of a glorified chaprasi!


Needless to say, the office of the Governor desperately needs to be revamped and restored to its old glory. This calls for fairness, uprightness and adherence to Constitutional values and conventions. The time has come to set healthy and gracious conventions for high Constitutional offices if our democracy is to be put back on the rails.


Remember, what matters are not men but institutions. Towards that end we need men of stature known for their integrity and objectivity. One can tit for an individual but not tat on the State. Let us not convert the Governor from being a who’s who to who? who?


We need to rise above politics and appoint neutral non-political Governors. It is now imperative that a Prime Minister who postulates the Constitution also practices what he solemnly preaches! ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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